The first post of my new section has to go to Giovanni Boldini, an artist that was born in Ferrara in 1831 and lived to be just shy of 90.

Known as the “Master of Swish“, his art appeals to me because of its dramatic colours, its fluidness and swirliness.

His is this painting, of Giuseppe Verdi, used over and over again for commercial purposes


His is this painting, of Marthe de Florian, one of his muses, exceptional because it was rediscovered only in 2010 in a flat that had been more or less abandoned for 70years

Marthe de Florian by Boldini

His is this painting, called “Scena Galante”, quite osé if you ask me but swished with amazing colours and total feminine dominance – it took me a while to see the man a-courting


And, last but definitely not least, his is this painting, of the Marchesa Luisa Casati, who is the first painting of his that I truly appreciated and that, basically, prompted the start of this new section in my blog.

Luisa Casati by Boldini

The Marchesa (Luisa Casati Stampa di Soncino) needs a tiny place of her own, as she lived during the best of the Belle Époche, was a dandy heiress who wanted “to be a living work of art”. We daresay she definitely succeeded! When their parents died, her and her sister were considered the wealthiest women in Italy. The Marchesa lived day by day, was an accomplished femme fatale that revelled in going to the ballet, scandalising the public by wearing snakes as jewellery, taking her two pet cheetahs out for walks and tea, by going out with d’Annunzio and then taking up residence in Venice, where her parties soon became legen – wait for it – dary.

A muse to many artists both by choice and commission (she would often pay to have her become immortal). Characters based on her were played in movies (La Contessa and A Matter of Time) and fashion collections by Dior and McQueen were inspired by her. Kerouac wrote the following poem, after seeing a portrait of her:

Marchesa Casati
Is a living doll
Pinned on my Frisco
Skid row wall

Her eyes are vast
Her skin is shiny
Blue veins
And wild red hair
Shoulders sweet & tiny

Love her
Love her
Sings the sea
In the Augustus John
de John


Her life of fame and notoriety ended abruptly in 1930, when she had accumulated a debt so large that she fled, or better flew to London where she lived in poverty until her death in 1957. She is buried in Brompton cemetery, dressed in leopardskin, wearing fake eyelashes and accompanied by her stuffed pekinese dog. And if it hadn’t been for Boldini’s amazing representation of her, I would have never discovered this real-life character.


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